Hedge fund billionaire and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is continuing his push to develop unused land around Citi Field — plans that could include a casino-hotel — and is inviting the public to make their voices heard.
Today, an entity known as New Green Willets LLC — which Cohen formed early this year to lobby city and state officials on the Citi Field casino issue — announced it is holding a “visioning session” on Jan. 7 at the ballpark. It invited Queens residents and those that work in the borough to attend. A statement announcing the meeting doesn’t explicitly mention a casino, but does highlight potential entertainment opportunities on an unused 50-acre plot near the ballpark.
For months, we have been listening to the local community who keeps telling us there is more they want from the area. Everyone agrees that the status quo isn’t acceptable,” said Cohen in the press release. “We are committed to putting forward a vision for the area that will create a shared space that people not only want to come to and enjoy, but can be proud of.”
Green Willets is tied to Poin72 Asset Management — Cohen’s family office. Vincent Tortorella, the general counsel of Point 72, is listed as the principal of New Green Willets.
Cohen’s Casino Desires Are No Secret
Cohen’s desires to bring a gaming venue to the under-utilized, hard-to-develop Willets Point area is no secret, though that plan isn’t overtly mentioned in the visioning session announcement. Rather, the matter is stated in delicate fashion.
“Entertainment is the economic engine that will make this area a destination every single day of the year— regardless of the weather, or if it’s baseball season,” according to the statement.
Last year, speculation surfaced that Cohen was holding talks with Las Vegas Sands about the possibility of developing an integrated resort in Queens near Citi Field. Later, rumors surfaced that his preferred partner is Hard Rock International — the gaming arm of Florida’s Seminole Tribe.
New York is seriously mulling casino gaming expansion in the downstate region, including a third venue. The other two properties — MGM Resorts’ Empire City in Yonkers and Resorts World New York City (RWNY) in Queens — hold two of the three licenses, but must wait until 2023 to offer table games and sports wagering.
Cohen’s Plans Extend Beyond Casino
Cohen’s plans to develop the unused 50 acres by Citi Field, comprised mostly of asphalt, include more than a gaming venue and could foster goodwill in the community.
The Mets owner is looking to develop parks and open green spaces for public use, as well as improved transportation options. That’s while enhancing connectivity to the local waterfront with better walking and cycling availability. There’s also the possibility of tangible, positive economic impact.
“Turning this space into usable parks for the public and an entertainment destination with live music, restaurants, and bars will create thousands of good-paying jobs throughout the construction process and for years to come,” according to the statement. “We are committed to hiring local, supporting minority and women-owned businesses, and providing ongoing workforce training programs.”
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